A musical about dancers telling tales
Story and photos by Clara Lock
Dance is a metaphor for life in the musical A Chorus Line, which opened last Friday at the Marina Bay Sands. The premise is simple – seventeen dancers looking for work on Broadway are thrust, for the first time, into centre stage.
Unfamiliar to a spotlight that usually favours actors and singers above dancers, these seventeen individuals come alive as they tell their stories. Each has their own heartbreaking tale of how dance has saved them, or at the very least, given them hope.
This is a production anchored by the requisite glitzy song and dance numbers, which it delivers beautifully. The opening sequence is a display of polished perfection – ironic, perhaps, as it is meant to portray the dancers finding their footing in a new routine. But the group number is riveting, so in sync is the ensemble with their steps and each other.
Yet the heart of this music lies beneath its glossy finish, in the stories of the seventeen people. Told through a series of solos and monologues, they tackle the gritty back-stories of the characters, most of whom come from broken families and troubled childhoods. Strung together, the snippets start out honest and refreshing, but the whole sequence drags a bit towards the end.
Still, there are standout performers who keep the pacing mostly upbeat, like Debora Krizak who delights as the brassy and conceited aging blonde Sheila. Krizak is a hoot in the character’s self-absorbed skin, which is later peeled back in At The Ballet, a number she performs with Bebe (Monique Salle) and Maggie (Stephanie Grigg).
The trio, who hail from loveless families, delivers an emotive number about how they sought solace at ballet classes. It is with this number that Krizak believably fleshes out Sheila as an aging ballerina hiding her insecurities behind a prima donna façade.
Also notable is relative newcomer Euan Doidge as Paul, the tormented homosexual performer who craved his family’s acceptance. His monologue, one of the longest in the musical, is heartfelt without being contrived, his emotional struggle apparent.
Audiences used to opulent sets of international productions may find A Chorus Line austere, the stage largely bare save for a long white line across the stage along which the chorus assembles. Revolving slats convert the backdrop into a floor-to-ceiling mirror for rehearsal scenes, which reflect a kaleidoscope of colour.
But the set is most effective in the solos, most notably Cassie’s (Anita Louise Combe) solo. Dwarfed and alone on a bare stage that appears doubled in size by the mirrors, her desperation for a role is apparent as she is dances for her life.
Anyone who has ever been on stage, or aspired to perform, will relate to A Chorus Line. For the rest of us, its message is clear – Live for what you love – without any regrets.
A Chorus Line runs till the 27th of May at Marina Bay Sands. For tickets and more information, visit www.sistic.com.sg